Ladybug, Ladybug, Fly Away Home…
…and hopefully, that’s your garden!
In the world of beneficial insects, ladybugs (known as “ladybirds” in the UK) are probably the most well known after the honeybee. Many cultures consider ladybugs to be lucky omens; for instance, the Turkish name is uğur böceği, literally meaning “good luck bug.” In Russia, Turkey, and Italy, the sight of one is either a call to make a wish or a sign that a wish will soon be granted.
Beyond the mythical and the charming, if honeybees are recognized as useful pollinators, what makes ladybugs so special? Why are they practical to have around?
What do they look like, and how do they grow?
Nearly everyone has seen the classic red ladybug with black spots. While this is a common pattern, they can appear in many different colors and with varying quantities of spots. Others may have no spots at all. Some species (there are over 6,000 in all) include base colors like yellow, orange, brown and grey, and there’s even a glamorous metallic blue one!
Much like a butterfly, these charming creatures hatch from eggs into a larva and enter a pupal stage before emerging as adult ladybugs. The larval stage of the lady beetle is also easily seen in your garden if you know what to look for. They do not resemble ladybugs at all. Instead, these caterpillar-looking critters have been described as looking more like an alligator–albeit, a very small orange and black one with spines!
Why is it good to have ladybugs in my garden?
Unlike honeybees, ladybugs are not known as exceptional pollinators. Instead, they function as predators of plant-destroying insects such as aphids, scale bugs, and mealybugs. Both the larval stage and fully grown ladybugs feed on these pests, and a single one can consume up to 5,000 aphids in a one-year lifespan.
How do I attract ladybugs to my garden?
If there are no aphids in your garden, ladybirds will be happy to feed on the nectar of ornamental flowers like marigolds and cosmos. Plant these in your garden and you may be rewarded with more than just beautiful blossoms.
Ladybugs also require moisture to thrive. If you wish to keep them as guests in your yard, offer them water. This can be as simple as lightly spraying water on your garden when ladybugs are present. Some gardeners will offer damp rags to ladybugs to get them to stick around. Birdbaths and fountains are also a good source of refreshment.
If you want to go one step further to make lady beetles really feel at home, buy them a house! Many different styles are available online or at your local nursery.
If you can’t find one that you (or they) like, you can always build one. Common materials and a little imagination are all you really need. Of course, it can become a very special home and bonding project if you involve a child in the construction.
If you aren’t having any luck attracting local ladybirds to your yard, they can be easily purchased online. (Yes! Can you believe it?!) Just make sure to purchase ladybugs that have been commercially raised, not wild-caught. Wild-caught ladybugs may carry parasites or diseases non-native to your area. Follow the instructions included with your purchase to make sure as many as possible stay nearby.
Protect These Ladies!
It almost goes without saying—but I’m compelled to anyway, in defense of these lovely beetles–that pesticides should be avoided if you want ladybugs in your garden. Pesticides are indiscriminate and will destroy ladybugs right alongside the undesirable bugs. Instead, it may be better to attract ladybugs and let them do the heavy lifting of killing the unwanted pests in your garden beds.
I wish you the best of luck in attracting these charming (and lucky!) bugs to your garden!
Todd Stebleton is the owner and operator of Universal Pest Control, a family-owned business for over 25 years in Ormond Beach, Florida. He and his wife Natalie are proud to have built a company focused on conducting business with honesty and integrity: keeping customers first, protecting the environment, and providing trustworthy, personal service.
Universal: Honest, Environmentally Friendly Pest Control